I was matched with a “monster” during my volunteer work at Big Brother, Big Sister. Drug offense is presumably the most hated crime in the U.S. It is so loathed that the government declared itself at war with drugs within its own borders. My client, H, lost his father to this battle after he was convicted of multiple counts of possession of illegal drugs and sentenced to a ridiculously long sentence.
A few months into our relationship, H confided in me that he secretly peddled marijuana. Cannabis had just been legalized for recreational use a few months earlier, but a child selling it in the black market or elsewhere was still prohibited.
I was at crossroads because social welfare benefits are subject to reduction or complete forfeiture when a beneficiary commits a drug-related crime. Despite being brought up in a dysfunctional family buried deep in poverty, H was a smart student, caring towards his two half-sisters and so forgiving of the system that ripped him of his childhood and deferred his dreams. He was now my friend, but the professional standards required that I report his illegal dealings, regardless of his reasons for engaging in them.
I confided in one of my superiors, who were not just more experienced than I but also believed, as I did, that our system of governance is fundamentally flawed and counter-intuitively works against the people it purports to serve. H’s problem was deeply rooted in his background of indigence and mistrust of the system.
With the help of my supervisor, H was convinced of dealing drugs and helped to get employment at a fast-food restaurant. We are still friends to date, and H thanks me for helping him without necessarily condemning him to the punitive “reformatory” criminal justice system that would have relegated him further to a state of second-class citizenry.